By Steve Rodriguez
A civic banner I recently saw flying from a Friars Road lamp post decreed “Mission Valley—Positively in the Middle of Things.”
The banner’s slogan made me think hard about the distinctive characteristics of Mission Valley, and how Mission Valley residents define themselves. I must admit, I came away somewhat disappointed. Though Mission Valley presents many advantages to its residents (i.e. shopping malls, Qualcomm Stadium, easy access to freeways), I concluded this community lacks a certain distinctiveness.
What I am talking about is the kind of distinctiveness that provides neighboring communities with their respective unique personas — the vivid identity residents can refer to with pride and say, “Yeah, that’s us! And we’re proud of it!”
Yes, Mission Valley happens to be in the middle of things, but with no particular persona of its own. Think about it — neighboring communities have firmly established their own distinctive and enviable brands. Linda Vista is known for its cultural diversity; Kearny Mesa has its numerous Asian eateries; Hillcrest represents the pride of the LGBT community; and North Park now has a national reputation for being a bastion of hipster cool.
In this sense, Mission Valley is more like Switzerland, which we recognize as being conveniently in the middle of Europe, yet neutral, bland, and aloof. Indeed, if this is the case, we must consider that famous line from the classic movie “The Third Man,” the one in which Orson Welles’ character refers to the wonderful qualities of Switzerland, but then comments how the only thing that country ever produced “was the cuckoo-clock.” I am afraid that in comparison to the personas of neighboring communities, Mission Valley cannot claim to rise beyond the level of cuckoo-clock prominence. “In the middle of things” lacks the requisite verve or élan.
Furthermore, I fear bragging about being in the middle of things has the questionable taint of a self-serving appeal. It can be misinterpreted as meaning, “Hey, invite me over for dinner, because I can be at your table in a matter of minutes.” It can be taken as if we’re rubbing it in by saying, “Though we both undergo the daily agony of Mission Valley traffic, my daily commute is still probably much shorter than yours.”
I guess you could say promoting the fact that Mission Valley is in the middle of things has its advantages. After all, it sounds much better than resorting to possible slogans pointing out the usual Mission Valley stereotypes such as “We Love Freeway Interchanges” or “If you think the traffic is bad now, you should drive through here during the holiday shopping season,” or “If you’ve got rain, we’ve got flooding.” If being “close” is indeed the Valley’s most discernable quality, I suggest a somewhat catchier slogan for civic lamp post banners, one that reaches out to other San Diego communities while not being so self-serving.
I offer the slogan “If you build it, we will come and spend money, because chances are good it is close to Mission Valley.” This slogan emphasizes the community’s proximity as a positive quality that benefits all concerned, not just residents of the Valley.
In the meantime, let’s see what we can do about developing Mission Valley’s own special brand. We may never be as hip as North Park, but I am certain our community identity can be defined with a persona that goes beyond mere geographic location.
—Steve Rodriguez is a high school English teacher and a part-time writer with a bent toward humorous commentary. Reach him at email@example.com.